Collecting Bromeliads and Orchids in Florida

Subtitle

 

Florida's Native Bromeliads

 

All of Florida's 16 native bromeliad species and two natural hybrids, are epiphytic. Natural hybrids are produced when cross-pollination occurs between species... producing a new offspring.

Ten of Florida's 16 native bromeliad species are listed as either threatened or endangered. A threatened species is at risk of becoming an endangered species... and an endangered species is at risk of becoming extinct. Loss of habitat, illegal collecting of specimens from natural areas... and the non-native Mexican bromeliad weevil, Metamasius callizona, are the greatest threats to Florida's bromeliads.

There is also a bromeliad weevil that Is native to Florida... Metamasius mosieri, but as the native does not typically kill the bromeliad, the Mexican weevil's larvae does kill the plant. The rapid spread of the Mexican bromeliad weevil throughout south Florida is a serious threat to these rare plants. For more information on the Mexican bromeliad weevil problem, please see the additional information at the end of this section and, visit the University of Florida's website @ Save Florida's Native Bromeliads 

This section describes the distinct features of each of Florida's 16 native bromeliads and notes specific conservation concerns. There are also two natural hybrids in Florida that are listed at the end. Please visit the additional information and references listed at the end of this section for any and all updates and credits.

Powdery Strap Airplant

Scientific name: Catposis berteroniana
Also called: Powdery catopsis, West Indies catopsis, Mealy wild pine
Status in Florida: endangered; rare
Threats in Florida: illegal collecting, Mexican Bromeliad Weevil, habitat loss
Range: Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America
Distribution in Florida: Collier, Dade, and mainland Monroe Counties
Habitat: rockland hammock; slough; tidal swamp; it prefers strong light, on high branches of its host tree
Description: tank epiphyte; when flowering, 16 in.; leaves yellow-green, to 18 in. white, chalky, powder covering, especially at the base; flowers 15-50, 3/8-1/2 in. white, on a stout scape, usually with 2-8 lateral branches; floral bracts 1/4 to 1/3 in.; sepals 1/2 in. yellow-green; seed capsule 1/2 in. long; seeds often germinate on the capsule
Time of flowering: all year, especially fall to winter
Facts: one of three known carnivorous bromeliads; slippery powder on leaf bases may aid in the trapping of insects

Florida Strap Airplant

Scientific name: Catopsis floribunda
Also called: Many-flowered catopsis, Many-flowered airplant, Florida catopsis
Status in Florida: endangered, rare
Threats in Florida: illegal collecting, habitat loss, Mexican Bromeliad Weevil
Range: Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America
Distribution in Florida: Broward, Collier, Dade, and Monroe Counties
Habitat: humid, shady habitats; rockland hammocks; cypress swamps
Description: tank epiphyte; grows to 28 in. tall; leaves bright green, 8 in. with wide bases and narrowing at the tip; flower stalk 10 in. or longer, with 5-15 lateral branches; flowers 15-50 yellow or white; seed capsules 1/2 in. long; vegetative in every month of the year
Time of flowering: fall
Facts: soft leaves form a basal rosette; prefers a shady spot on low tree branches

Nodding Strap Airplant

Scientific name: Catopsis nutans
Also called: Catopsis nutans
Status in Florida: endangered, very rare
Threats in Florida: restricted range, illegal collecting, Mexican Bromeliad Weevil
Range: Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America
Distribution in Florida: Collier County
Habitat: shady, humid hammocks, deep cypress swamp, slouhs
Description: tank epiphyte; height 12 in. leaves small rosetts overlapping at bases, flexible, spreading, bright green, tapered to the tip, 3-6 in. long, 3/4 wide at the base, chalky; flpwer stalk usually simple; flowers 3-10 orange/yellow, 3/4 in.; capsules 1/2 - 3/4 in. long, oval
Time of flowering: fall-spring (August-October)
Facts: flowers open at night; may only exist in the Fakahatchee Strand

West Indian Tufted Airplant

Scientific name: Guzmania monostachia
Also called: Fuchs bromeliad, Strap-leaved Guzmania, Striped torch
Status in Florida: endangered, restricted, seldom found but locally abundant
Threats in Florida: illegal collecting, Mexican Bromeliad Weevil
Range: Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central America down to northern Peru and Brazil
Distribution in Florida: Collier, Dade, and mainland Monroe counties
Habitat: rockland hammock, slough, cypress swamps, most abundant on Pop Ash (Fraxinus caroliniana) and on Pond Apple (Annona glabra), sloughs with peat soils
Description: tank epiphyte, may be terrestrial; bright green, flexible, leaves taper at the tip, about 1 in. wide, usually 10-12 in., may have white stripes; single floral spike to 16 in.; many white flowers spirally arranged, 1 in.; salmon colored apical floral bracts; cylindrical seed capsules 1 1/2 in.
Time of flowering: all year, mainly February-August and especially May-July
Facts: 100 plants may appear on a single host tree; may produce many vegetaive offsets; genus name honors the 18th Century Spanish naturalist Guzman

Northern Needleleaf

Scientific name: Tillandsia balbisiana
Also called: Inflated wild pine, Reflexed wild pine, Cuttlefish, Balbis airplant
Status in Florida: threatened, occasionally found
Threats in Florida: Mexican Bromeliad Weevil, habitat loss
Range: Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America
Distribution in Florida: Orange, Osceola, Polk, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, DeSoto, Highlands, Okeechobee, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Glades, Charlotte, Lee, Hendry, Palm Beach, Broward, Collier, Monroe, and Dade Counties
Habitat: scrub, pinelands, cypress swamp, hammocks, mangroves, shell ridges/mounds
Description: tank epiphyte; 28 in. tall, single or in clusters; 15-30 leaves leathery, grey color due to scales (thichomes), may be reddish; leaves slightly bulbous at the base, tapering, curved or twisted at the ends; flower spike usually 2-10 lateral branches, scape 3-12 in.; floral bracts bright red with violet petals, 5 flowers; seed capsules 1 3/4 in.
Time of flowering: fall-summer, especially early spring
Facts: on older plants, twisted and curved leaves interlock, forming a ball

Bartram's Airplant

Scientific name: Tillandsia bartramii syn T. juncea, T. myriophylla
Status in Florida: frequently found
Range: Florida, Georgia, Caribbean, Mexico
Distribution in Florida: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Franklin, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Manatee, Marion, Nassau, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Polk, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter, Suwannee, Volusia, and Wakulla counties.
Habitat: hammocks and pinelands
Description: epiphyte, 4-12 in. tall, 16-18 in. when flowering; plants clusterd; 15 thin and leathery, grayish leaves; flower spike simple or 1-5 side branches; pink to red floral bracts; violet petals; seed capsules 1 in. long
Time of flowering: spring-summer, especially spring
Facts: leaves resemble those of a wetland rush; Bartman was an early Florida naturalist.

Cardinal Airplant

Scientific name: Tillandsia fasciculata syn T. hystricina
Also called: Quill-leaf airplant, Common wild pine, Clusterd wild pine, Dog-drink-water
Status in Florida: endangered, frequent before the weevil
Threats in Florida: illegal collecting, Mexican Bromeliad Weevil, habitat loss
Range: Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America
Distribution in Florida: Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk
Sarasota, Seminole, and Volusia counties
Habitat: hammocks, cypress swamps, pinelands
Description: tank epiphyte, often in clusters; 20-50 long, stiff and leathery gray/green leaves 12-28 in. wider at the brown base, tapering; flowering spike 12-24 in., 3-15 branches; floral bracts usually red but vary from yellow, green, to rose; 10-50 violet flowers, violet, rarely white, 1 3/4 in; seed capsules 1 in.; seeds windborne
Time of flowering: all year, especially spring to early summer
Facts: leaves are longer in the shade, plants smaller and more colorfull in open sun

Twisted Airplant

Scientific name: Tillandsia paucifolia syn T. circinnata,
T. bulbosa
Status in Florida: occasional
Threats in Florida: Mexican Bromeliad Weevil
Range: Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America
Distrubution in Florida: Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Hendry, Indian River, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach counties
Habitat: exposed areas, often coastal; xeric hammock, pinelands, scrub, shell mound, coastal berm, maritime hammock, tidal swamp, cypress swamp
Description: tank epiphyte; 8-31 in., bulbous base, grey leaves, twisted tips, white bands; zigzag flower stalk simple or few branches; spreading floral bracts; rose or purple flowers, 1 1/2 in.; seed capsules 2 in. long
Time of flowering: all year, except November and December, and mostly spring to summer
Facts: flowers once, then reproduces vegetatively

Potbelly Airplant

Scientific name: Tillandsia paucifolia syn T. circinnata,
T. bulbosa
Status in Florida: occasional
Threats in Florida: Mexican Bromeliad Weevil
Range: Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America
Distribution in Florida: Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Hendry, Indian River, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach, Sarasota, and St. Lucie counties
Habitat: coastal strands and hammocks, exposed habitats, cypress swamps
Description: tank epiphyte; 4-14 in. tall, single or in clusters; pseudobulbs; 5-10 in. long, twisted tapering leaves; simple flower spike 2-3 in., may have 2-4 branches, 2-15 lavender flowers in.; leathery, pale pink floral bracts; brown, pointed seed capsules 1 1/2 in. long
Time of flowering: spring-summer
Facts: only flowers once, then produces young sprout "pups" that feed off the mother plant until they drop off

Fuzzywuzzy Airplant

Scientific name: Tillandsia pruinosa syn T. breviscapa
Also called: Hoary airplant, Tropical airplant
Status in Florida: endangered, rare
Threats in Florida: illegal collecting, Mexican Bromeliad Weevil, habitat loss
Range: Florida, West Indies, Central and South America...
Distribution in Florida: Collier county
Habitat: shady, humid hammocks, cypress swamps
Description: tank epiphyte, pseudobulb, rarely clustered; 10 in. tall, 5-10 leaves; scales create white fuzzy appearance; flower spike simple; floral bracts pink, with 5 to many violet flowers 1 in.; seed capsule pointed and three sided, 1 3/4 in. long
Time of flowering: All year, especially winter to spring
Facts: pointed scales gives this plant its fuzziness; short flower stalks are sometimes hidden

Ball Moss

Scientific name: Tillandsia recurvata syn Diaphoranthema
recurvata
Status in Florida: very common
Threats in Florida: none
Range: Arizona, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central America, Argentina, Chile
Distribution in Florida: all counties
Habitat: hammocks (prefer broad-leaved trees), pinelands, scrub, exposed areas
Description: epiphyte; 5-7 in. tall, 6-7 in. wide; rooted crown, cluster of curving stems, compact leaves resulting in a ball-like growth; leaves stiff, narrow, grey 2-5 blue to violet flowers on long central stem; seed capsule 1 in. long
Time of flowering: spring
Fact: several plants often together in masses

Southern Needleleaf

Scientific name: Tillandsia setacea_Syn T. tenuifolia
Also called: Needleleaf airplant
Status in Florida: common
Threats in Florida: none
Range: Florida, West Indies, Central and South America
Distribution in Florida: Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Palm Beach, Oasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Lucie, Sumter, and Volusia counties
Habitat: hammocks, swamps
Description: epiphyte, grows to 12 in. long, plants densely clustered, grows in small tufts; leaves swollen at the base, curving tips, green to red; flower stalk 3-6 in., 3-15 violet flowers, 1 in. long; seed capsules 1 in.
Time of flowering: spring
Fact: similar to Tillandsia bartramii except for red tinting

Broad Needleleaf

Scientific name:Tillandsia simulata
Status in Florida: frequent... found nowhere else
Threats in Florida: Mexican Bromeliad Weevil
Range: Florida only
Distribution in Florida: Citrus, DeSoto, Flagler, Hernando
Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Levy, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Seminole, Sumter, and Volusia counties
Habitat: moist hammocks, swamps, usually in strong light
Description: epiphyte, single or in clusters; 8-16 in. tall; grey pointed leathery leaves; simple flower spike with reddish floral bracts; 5-30 violet flowers, 1 3/4 long;
seed capsules 1 in.
Time of flowering: spring-summer
Fact: the only bromeliad species known only from Florida

Spanish Moss

Scientific name: Tillandsia usneoides   Syn Dendropogon
usneoides
Status in Florida: very common
Threats in Florida: none
Range: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, to Central Argentina and Chile
Distribution in Florida: all counties
Habitat: hammocks (usually on oaks), pinelands and scrub, prefers moist, brightly exposed areas
Description: epiphyte, rootless; long branching, up to 18 in. long; leaves 1-2 in. long, 1/16 in. wide, covered with grey scales; leaves greener when the plant is healthy; flowers usually one, greenish, fragrant, lasting 4 days; seed capsules 1/2 to 3/4 in. long: seeds are 2-23 per capsule, reproduces by seed and vegetatively
Time of flowering: spring (mainly in April)
Facts: "ginned" in Florida in early 1900s; bales exported for car seats and mattresses; broadest geographical range of any bromeliad; grey leaves may indicate moisture stress or other environmental factors; can withstand extreme temperature fluctuation and low rainfall

Giant Airplant

Scientific name: Tillandsia utriculata
Also called: Giant/Swolen wild pine; Spreading airplant
Status in Florida: endangered, frequent before the Maxican Bromeliad Weevil
Threats in Florida: illegal collecting, Mexican Bromeliad Weevil, habitat loss
Range: Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America
Distribution in Florida: Putnam, Flagler, Sumter, Lake and Citrus counties, and south to the end of the peninsula
Habitat: dry and mesic hammocks, cypress swamps, pine-lands (often in bright exposed areas)
Description: tank epiphyte (may grow as a terrestrial); single plants, 6-12 ft.; 20-75 large, light-green to grey leaves (up to 31 in.) with a wide base and scales; erect zigzag branching flower spike (40-80 in.) 5-40 branches; floral bracts are green or purple; 10-200 flowers, 1 in. petals white at the base, violet at the end; seed capsules up to 2 in.; monocarpic (single flower spike releases seed and dies); low rate of vegetative reproduction
Time of flowering: spring to fall (especially summer)
Facts: after the flower spike appears, seeds are released the following year in late spring; the plant may live for 20 years

Leatherleaf Airplant

Scientific name: Tillandsia variabilis
syn T. valenzuelana
Also called: Soft-leaved wild pine
Status in Florida: threatened, occasional
Threats in Florida: illegal collecting, Mexican Bromeliad Weevil, habitat loss
Range: Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America
Distribution in Florida: Broward, Collier, Hendry, Highlands
Martin, Dade, Monroe, and Okeechobee counties
Habitat: shaded hammocks, cypress swamps
Description: tank epiphyte; plants usually single; 12-20 in. tall; 15-20 soft leaves with fine scales, green/grey or silver (may have rose coloring), tapering; simple flower spike with reddish floral bracts 1 3/8 in. long), violet petals and white sepals
Time of flowering: spring-fall
Facts: color of the flower spike depends greatly on the light level; summer colors are darker than in the fall

Naturally Occuring Hybrids

A. Tillandsia x floridana (Harry Luther). Natural hybrid of Tillandsia bartramii (Bartram's airplant) and Tillandsia fasciculata (Cardinal airplant).

Former names:
Tillandsia hystricina; Tillandsia fasciculata var. Thought to be only found in Florida. These plants usually grow in clusters.

B. Tillandsia x smalliana (Harry Luther). Natural hybrid of Tillandsia balbisiana (Northern Needleleaf) and Tillandsia fasciculata (Cardinal airplant).

Former names:
Tillandsia x smalliana has been misdetermined as Tillandsia polystachia, a Caribbean species not found in Florida. Thought to be found only in Florida. These plants usually grows in clusters.

Barbra C. Larson... J. Howard Frank... Ginger M. Allen... Martin B. Main

Cited References and Additional Information

Arny, Nancy P. 1996. Spanish and Ball Moss. UF/IFAS FOR 52.
School of Forest Resources and Conservation

Bennet, Bradley C. 1992. The Florida Bromeliads_Guzmania monostachia
Journal of the Bromeliad Society International 42(6): 266
> Bromeliad Society International 

Coile, Nancy C. Notes on Florida's Endangered and Threatened Plants. Bureau of Entomology, Nematology and Plant Pathology University of Florida, Botany Section Gainesville, FL.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry Regulated Plant Index > Florida Department of Agriculture 

Florida Natural Areas Inventory. Matrix of Habitats and Distribution by County of Rare/Endangered species of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory.
> The Nature Conservancy

Frank, J.H. 1996 Carnivorous bromeliads.
Frank, J.H. 1996 Bromeliad Phytotelmata.
Frank, J.H. 1996 Pests of Bromeliads
> SaveFloridasBromeliads 

Hall, David W. Illustrated Plants of Florida and the Costal Plain.
Maupin House, Gainesville, Florida

Langdon, K.R. The Bromeliad, Guzmania monostachya, An Endangered Plant in Florida. Nematology Circular No. 69 (Botany 12). Contribution # 220
Bureau of Nematology, FDACS/DPI, Gainesville, Florida.

Larson, Barbra and J. Howard Frank. 2000. Mexican Bromeliad Weevil, Metemasius callizona (Chevrolat). UF/IFAS Featured Creatures. EENY-161.
> Featured Creatures 

Larson, Barbra, J. Howard Frank, and Olan Ray Creel. 2001. Florida Bromeliad Weevil, Metamasius mosieri Barber. UF/IFAS Featured Creatures. EENY-209
> Metamasuis mosieri 

Long, Robert W. and Olga Lakela.
A Flora of Tropical Florida. Banyan Books, Miami, FL.

Save Florida's Native Bromeliads. A Project of the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies and the University of Florida/IFAS.
> Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies 

Sutton, David L. 1999. Aquatic, Wetland and Invasive Plant Glossary.
University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, Gainesville, FL.
> UFL Plant Glossary

Ward, Daniel B. (ed.). Plants Vol. 5, In: Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida.
P.C.H. Pritchard (ed.). University Presses of Florida, Gainesville, 175 pp.

Footnotes:

1. This document is Circular 1466 (UW205), one in a series of the Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation... Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (IFAS), University of Florida.
Publication date: September 2004. Revised: October 2006.
Visit the Edis Web site at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu 

2. Barbra C. Larson, State Program Coordinator, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods, and J. Howard Frank, Professor, Entomology and Nematology Department, IFAS,
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611

3. Martin B. Main, Associate Professor and Wildlife Extension Specialist, and Ginger M. Allen, Senior Biological Scientist, Southewst Florida Research and Education Center, IFAS, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS:
Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Larry Arrington, Dean.

Copyright Information

This document is copyrighted by the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (UF/IFAS) for the people of the State of Florida. UF/IFAS retains all rights under all conventions, but permits free reproduction by all agents and offices of the Cooperative Extension Service and the people of the State of Florida. Permission is granted to others to use these materials in part or in full for educational purposes, provided that full credit is given to the UF/IFAS, citing the publication, its source, and date of publication.